We’ve all seen at least one Bollywood movie by now and yet there aren’t many outlets to express the Indian within us. This MoveMaker was self taught, but has created BollyX to bring the power of shared choreography to the masses, one step at a time.
A competitive sports player, once-upon-a-time singer and a badass dancer, Shahil Patel, is the visionary behind BollyX. Through this Bollywood-inspired high intensity cardio workout, he has found a creative way to mesh people, culture and fitness together.
A 2009 graduate from UC Berkeley, Shahil knew that he was meant to be more than a strategy consultant at Accenture (his first real job) or a doctor (like all good Indian boys). In fact, at Berkeley, as a way to surprise his parents with a cultural performance, he joined the South Asian dance team. “I was embarrassed to go to rehearsals because I was surrounded by highly trained dancers. I considered myself in the bottom tier. So, I set up a tripod in my dorm room and started watching YouTube videos of Michael Jackson and other pioneers in the space. I would learn the choreography, record myself, and then analyze what I did to understand what really differentiated a dancer from others.”
“Bollywood as a genre is not about movement; it’s about confidence, expression and owning it!”
Many of us have a hard time when we go to group dance and fitness classes. It almost seems overwhelming. Shahil, from his personal experience, says, “With dance and coordination, people don’t break through the inhibition period. They feel that they look foolish doing it and that’s why they don’t try. This is very typical of men especially.”
That’s where BollyX and its trainers come in. By giving people the opportunity to learn how to be confident and feel good about themselves ultimately leads to opening their minds to embrace dance. Shahil jokes, “If you ask 20 people to run their hand through their hair in the same room to a badass Bollywood soundtrack, everyone will do it differently but will own it. That’s the basis of Bollywood and the moves we create for BollyX.”
“I wanted to find a way to connect East and West.”
Remember how Shahil wasn’t the best on his dance team? Well, thanks to his determination, he ended up becoming the captain during his junior year and raking in seven intercollegiate competition wins. Fun fact: Under his captainship, the team was qualified for America’s Got Talent top 40 in 2009!
Besides suiting up for his day job at Accenture, Shahil took a stab at starting a dance company. “Building a business with no blueprint was tough. Although we were capital positive, we made a lot of mistakes (if only RADICHE existed back then!). But over the two years that I worked on Ishaara, I realized one thing: everywhere we performed, people would get excited. Then, there were movies like Slumdog Millionaire that people loved but there was no avenue to continue that experience. Nowhere to actually immerse in the culture beyond just witnessing a performance.”
Getting Down to Business (School)
In 2012, Shahil started an MBA program at MIT Sloan with the thought process of buying (or paying a lot of money for) time to build a substantial business. He credits the university culture of “get shit done” and his mentors for his decision to stray away from the original idea: a mobile app for dance. Specifically, the Managing Director of Entrepreneurship, who forced him to “think bigger and solve a real issue.” A few days later, Shahil took a leave of absence from b-school and set out to recruit a team of product and tech experts that would eventually become the #bxfamily.
BollyX was born in late 2013 when Shahil teamed up with co-founder Minal Mehta, an HBS graduate and Marketing buff. Together with the help of Fen Tung, their Product Director, an impressive Instructor Certification program was designed. Since its inception, BollyX has certified 1,000 instructors, with a goal of reaching 10,000 by 2017.
“We live and die by our community.”
The foundation of BollyX was built upon a customer centric model. With 400 BollyX meetups that happen per week, the company has been successful in building an extremely loyal following. “One thing I found with how the Indian culture was being portrayed in the U.S. was that it felt authentic until it wasn’t accessible. We wanted to be authentic yet approachable. For us, it was important to have a safe, effective, credible and results driven workout class. Then, the integration of various dance styles to appeal to a wider audience without losing our roots in Bollywood.”
RADICHE GUIDE: Building a Community Around Your Brand
- Find your customers, get them by providing an incredible experience, and keep them by providing long term value.
- Give them a good product that they will believe in and stand by.
- Listen to your customers and evolve with their feedback.
- Don’t worry about generating revenue first. Focus on creating a product that people will be proud to use and in turn, refer you to others. Then, you can worry about $$$ and scaling the business.
Photo courtesy of BollyX.